Freedom of the Press
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Press Freedom Score (0 = best, 100 = worst)
Legal Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Political Environment(0 = best, 40 = worst)
Economic Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
The constitution provides for freedom of speech and of the press, but the government limits these rights in practice. Attacks against the press in 2004 were far less brazen than in the previous year when several persecutions were visited on journalists, newspapers, and radio broadcasters. Nevertheless, journalists suffered penalties for their reporting on sensitive political issues. Violations against press freedom in 2004 included a raid on the premises of the weekly newspaper Le Temoin by security forces. The entire print run of the newspaper and production materials were seized in December. The newspaper was about to publish a photograph of four soldiers and gendarmes taken hostage by Touareg rebels operating in northern Niger. In another case, Moussa Kaka, director of the independent radio station Saraounia FM, was arrested and held incommunicado for four days by agents of the gendarmerie, despite Nigerien law, which prohibits detention for more than 48 hours. The arrest followed the broadcast by Saraounia FM of a telephone interview by the head of a new rebel movement that claimed armed attacks in the north of the country. In January, Mamane Abou, director of the private weekly Le Republicain, was released after serving two months of a six-month sentence for defamation. Abou was also fined US$3,780.
State-owned media reflect the government line. The state controls much of the broadcasting landscape, but private broadcasting has begun to flourish. Several private broadcasters, including Radio France Internationale, Africa No. 1, and Radio Bonferey, are allowed to operate without interference, but the private stations are far less critical of the government than are private newspapers. The government-owned La Voix du Sahel transmits 14 hours per day, broadcasting news and other programs in French and several local languages. More than a dozen private newspapers publish weekly and monthly. Most of the publications are affiliated with political parties and are published in the French language. They are typically critical of government, but since literacy is low, radio has the most extensive reach and influence with the population. A heavy tax on private media outlets prohibits a vibrant private media environment.